WASHINGTON — Two U.S. House seats are up for grabs in special elections and the presidential primary race inched forward on Tuesday, with most political attention focused on a Los Angeles area contest where Republicans hope to win back a seat in a race overshadowed by coronavirus.
Democrats flipped California’s 25th Congressional District in 2018 — a district President Trump lost by 7 points in 2016. A year later, it was vacated by then-Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., when she resigned amid an ethics investigation into an alleged relationship with a staffer, which Hill denies, and after nude photos of her were published online without her consent.
Now Republicans are bullish that their candidate, former Navy pilot Mike Garcia, can win the seat back for Republicans.
Garcia is running against state Assemblywoman Christy Smith to serve out the remainder of Hill’s term. Both will face off again in November’s general election in a bid for the subsequent two-year term starting in 2021.
The coronavirus epidemic has created more uncertainty in the race, with most voters expected to vote by mail after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state send ballots to every registered voter’s home.
The vote-by-mail process, one that California has been increasingly embracing even before the pandemic, has not been without controversy.
President Trump raised unfounded accusations of voter fraud last month when he endorsed Garcia on Twitter and added “turn your Ballots in now and track them, watching for dishonesty.”
Voters will be able to cast ballots at a handful of sites if they didn’t vote by mail. But both Trump and Garcia criticized the late decision to add one more to Lancaster, a city with a significant minority population. Trump called it proof the Democrats were pushing for a “rigged election,” while Democrats pointed to the city’s Republican mayor’s support for adding a polling place in the city.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden easily defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Nebraska Democratic primary, NBC News projected. With 46 percent of the vote in Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. CT (9:30 p.m. ET), Biden was leading Sanders 78 percent to 11.8 percent and expected to net 22 delegates.
Tuesday’s other special House election takes place in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, one Trump won easily in 2016 and that Republicans are expected to hold. The seat was vacated last year when Republican Rep. Sean Duffy retired, pointing to impending health issues with his then-unborn child.
There, Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany is running against Tricia Zunker, who hopes to become Wisconsin’s first Native American member of Congress.
One Democratic congressional primary also stands out among the rest of the races on the ballot Tuesday — the clash between Kara Eastman and Ann Ashford in the Omaha-area 2nd Congressional District.
Ashford’s husband, Brad, held the seat for one term but lost to Republican Rep. Don Bacon, the current incumbent, in 2016. His 2018 comeback bid was foiled by Democrat Kara Eastman, who won the Democratic primary that year but ultimately fell short to Bacon by 2 points in the fall general election.
Now, Ann Ashford is running against Eastman in a race that’s followed the Democratic Party’s fault lines.
Eastman has the backing of prominent progressive Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and supports Medicare-for-All, while Ashford has the backing of two former Nebraska Democratic senators and has cast her plans as more “realistic.”